Dunkin’ Donuts and a Little Boy’s Dream…

dunkindonutsA few years ago, I used to work out of Dunkin’ Donuts and send out letters to my sponsors.  I chose Dunkin Donuts because they offered 30 minutes of FREE wifi  with any purchase.  At the time, I didn’t have internet in my own apartment, so I had to be creative and so I drank a lot of coffee and did offline work by writing cards.  I used to come so frequently that all the Dunkin Donuts employees knew to give me extra slips of paper with the WiFi codes.  And if the internet didn’t work, they would tell me before I bought anything…

One day, the girls who worked there asked me what I was doing. I explained that I send pictures to sponsors and include notes that I handwrite.  They were in disbelief and amazed that the girl collecting wifi codes was going across the world to help these kids.


Maya writing letters to sponsors at Dunkin Donuts

Tanya, the manager asked me to explain more. She’s Ukrainian and I immediately told her about the kids I help there.  I figured she was Ukrainian, she would totallllly be interested in my work in Ukraine.

She then said that she’d like to sponsor a child…

I lit up! I said really??? In Ukraine???

She said, “No, in the Philippines. I know my country. I don’t trust where the money will go. I’d rather give it to a child in the Philippines.”

I asked if she had  a preference, and she said “none.” Tanya just wanted to help a child who really needed it.

That night, I looked through my casefiles.

I chose Mathew.

Ablay.Matthew pic

Matthew’s Mug

Ablay.MatthewAblay.Matthew. Eng

Here is Mathew in this video I took from my visit.

Matthew had been in my sponsor program since 2009.  But I had a harder time finding him a sponsor since his photo was a bit blurry.  When I had returned to the Philippines the second time, I asked for an updated casefile and a letter from Mathew.

Dear Sponsor:

I am Mathew John. I live in Bigte Norzagaray Bulacan. I have 3 siblings who are  also studying. My parents have no job. My stepfather is a laborer sometimes, my mother only takes care of our baby. We are a poor family that sometimes we didn’t eat. Our house was built of wood and when it rains, it also rains inside because our roof was made of metal with many holes, that makes our things and clothing’s wet, and even is specially at night when we are sleeping. My father put canal but still the water runs inside out small house. We do not have electricity and we use charcoal in cooking. We do not have comfort room. In school, we are required to use computer but I cannot because I don’t have money to go to the computer house to do my assignments, and most often I cannot go to school because I cannot afford for my transportation, our school is very far from our house. Most of the time, my teacher scold me because I don’t have projects because I have no money for my school needs.  Upon reaching home from school, I fetch water from the spring – river nearby our house. Every Saturday and Sunday I have to trade bottle, newspaper, metal or others that can be sold and when I earn I give money to my mother to buy our food or when I go home I bring food for us. 

Thank you very much for choosing me. You are a big help to me, I can finish my studies and help my parents someday.

From Mathew John A.

Matthew Ablay

What struck me about his letter was his openness and brutal honesty about how hard his life really is…  Mathew just wanted so badly to go to school.  But he had to help his parents because they often didn’t even eat.  And here I was hanging out in Dunkin Donuts writing letters.

MAtthew Ablay_2_cropped

It’s all about Mathew

As I put together his sponsor packet, I mailed it off with a current picture and hoped Tanya would be pleased.

Months had passed, and while I kept in touch with Tanya, I didn’t receive any new pictures from Mathew. I kept bugging Leila, the administrator, in the Philippines for a picture, but she was swamped with work and so was the social worker Agnes.

Then, as Christmas was approaching. I sent out an email to sponsors asking if they wanted to send out a gift.

I then received a gift of $200 from Tanya and when I asked, she said, “it’s Mathew’s gift.”


Mathew got the usual monthly goods that he got, which includes rice, school supplies… but Leila was so busy that Mathew didn’t get his Christmas gift on time.

Some months passed, and I kept inquiring about Mathew… did he get his gift? did he get his gift?


Then finally, he did.



Mathew carrying his sack of rice



Mathew outside of his home as it his floor inside is to be paved.


Mathew standing on his newly paved floor. They had a dirt floor.


Mathew smiling because he will not go hungry again thanks to his sponsor Tanya





















Now, you’re probably wondering… who is this girl Tanya from Dunkin Donuts?

Of course you are!

Well, a little bit about Tanya…

I saw Tanya as this hardworking woman. She was always serious but kind.  When I found out she was from Ukraine, I was even more curious about her.  As time passed, I discovered she was in school, living in New Jersey, and working long hours, often with little to no sleep.  She had classes at night, and worked long hours during the day. I would often pass her by on my way to work rushing to catch a bus, and we’d have a quick hug.

But just like Mathew, she values her family even though they’re so far away in Ukraine.  I asked her if she could send pictures and write something about why she wanted to sponsor Mathew. She sent a few pictures and replied, “But right now I can’t think much. I have to be up in 2 hours to work. Sorry.”

I’ll excuse Tanya this one time… only because, I think she’s amazing.

I never expected that hanging out in Dunkin Donuts writing letters would actually make a little boy’s dream in the Philippines come true… but it did.

Mathew will always have food. Mathew can go to school. And now, Mathew has a floor in his home.  All thanks to a brave woman named Tanya, who left Ukraine to get an education in America, who just happened to meet a girl in Dunkin Donuts.

Do you want to make a child’s dream come true?


Tanya and her sister


Tanya with her father and sister in Ukraine during Christmas in 2007




Mathew taking care of his siblings



Tanya and her mom